Turkey’s Top Military Brass Resign In Unprecedented Protest of Erdogan Government

Yesterday was the first time so many top military commanders in Turkey have stepped down simultaneously. Many believe this has gifted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the Islamist party, a decisive victory over the military whose role as guardian of the secular state has been eroded.

Erdogan was quick to promote generals more friendly to his policies. The Turkish government insisted that the sudden change of the military’s leadership was no cause for concern.
The AP reported:

Turkey’s president acknowledged Saturday that the resignation of the nation’s top military commanders was unprecedented, but he said it would not cause a crisis.

The commanders suddenly quit Friday to protest the arrest of dozens of generals as suspects in an alleged plot to overthrow the country’s Islamic-rooted government.

Many have questioned whether such a plot ever existed and see the arrests as part of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s long-standing campaign to establish civilian authority over Turkey’s once powerful military. The government strongly denies that allegation.

“No one should see this as a crisis in Turkey,” President Abdullah Gul told reporters on Saturday. “The developments yesterday were extraordinary within its scope, but as you see everything is continuing on its own course. There is no (power) vacuum.”

Turkey, a member of NATO, has contributed to the U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, and the military often fights Kurdish rebels who have been waging a campaign for autonomy in southeastern Turkey since 1984 — a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people.

Erdogan, who has been in power since 2002, has worked hard to establish civilian authority over Turkey’s once-powerful military, which had staged three coups since 1960 and pressured an Islamist premier out of office in 1997.

On Saturday, Labor Minister Faruk Celik tried to reassure the country that the sudden change of the military’s leadership is no cause for concern.

“I believe that what happened yesterday night would contribute to the normalization of Turkey as well as putting the military-civilian relations on the right track,” he said in a speech in the southeastern city of Sanliurfa.

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